ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was with a smile full of contentment coupled with a boyish like glare in his eye that Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas officially declared for the 2014 NBA draft Tuesday afternoon.
For Stauskas, this journey has been underway since his early days back in Mississauga, Ontario, as a little known prep sensation out of Canada, who, at the time, could flat out stroke the ball from beyond the three-point line.
Making the jump onto the next stage of his development, looking to become a more complete and diversified player, was always at the top of Stauskas’ list of priorities, even as just a little boy.
“I remember when I first committed to Michigan, I think I was 17 at the time, and I was thinking to myself, is this the right decision?” Stauskas said Tuesday. “You know in my mind, is this the best decision to be successful in college and is this the best decision to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA?
“Looking back on it now, I don’t think I could ‘ve made a better decision than coming here. These coaches have done wonders for me on and off the court, I’ve made unbelievable relationships with my teammates and just students at the school, I’ve got a first class education here, you know, my two years couldn’t have gone any smoother than they went.
“I’m just so happy for everything I’ve experienced and I’m just ready to see what these next years in the NBA have to bring for me.”
While it’s one thing to dream, it’s quite a feat to flip that into reality, but that’s exactly what Stauskas has done starting with his decision to hang around Ann Arbor last off-season, working on his game and his body.
What followed was a season as special as any in the country during the 2013-14 season, flourishing with a thicker frame and added bounce on his way to averaging 17.5 points per game and being named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Looking back, Stauskas points to those long summer months, encouraging the teammates he leaves behind, mainly Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., to do the exact same if they hope to not only improve at the college level, but have aspirations of playing professional basketball.
“100-percent,” Stausaks said. “And it’s a little bit of a mindset you have to have. I came into the spring and summer session last year with this in mind, you know I wanted to help my team be successful but at the same time I wanted to put myself in a position to achieve my dream to play in the NBA and that’s exactly what I did.
“So, I know if they follow the same instructions as me and Caris (LeVert) did I’m sure they’ll be in the same position soon.”
Now, all that’s standing between Stauskas and a career in the NBA is a Sociology exam on May 1, something he plans to finish out strong knowing down the line he’d like to finish his undergraduate degree at Michigan.
A self-professed NBA junkie, watching games and picking up tips as often as possible, Stauskas is watching the game a little different lately.
“I think ever since the season ended that’s been one of things I’ve been trying to do is watch NBA games and try to see myself fit in,” Stauskas said. “I think the biggest adjustment for me is really just going to be getting over the stardom.
“The guys I’ve grown up watching, the guys I’ve idolized since I was a young kid, you know, it’s just going to be an adjustment knowing I belong there not just looking up to them.”
Perhaps no one fits that profile more than LeBron James, who, at some point next season, could be looking Stauskas directly in the eye as an eager adversary.
“That’ll be a lot of fun,” Stauskas said. “I can’t even really put that into words just because of how much I’ve idolized him throughout the years.
“You guys know how big a fan I am of his and to get to play on the same court as him, it’s going to be an unbelievable feeling.”